Matt Frattin is lights out.

With 36 goals to his credit and just recently being named a member of the Hobey Baker Award ‘Hat Trick finalist’ club, the North Dakota senior forward is part of the most prolific offensive squad that the Michigan hockey team has faced this season.

“To have someone that potent scoring that much is dangerous,” said Wolverine senior forward Louie Caporusso after practice on Monday.

But Caporusso is perfectly content playing the underdog role for once this season. In fact, it’s a role he’s relished ever since he was a young kid back in Woodbridge, Ont.

“You never want to be the favorite,” Caporusso said after practice on Monday. “That’s the way I see it. Even on a personal level, I always love being the underdog.”

It’s no secret.

The Fighting Sioux have six players with at least 13 goals along with two 20-plus-goal scorers.

From top to bottom, North Dakota has a lengthy list of accomplishments that can make an opponent weak in the knees. From its 30-win netminder in Aaron Dell to its 4.14 goals per game, the deck is stacked against Michigan.

“When you’re the underdog, you just got to work hard and simplify your game,” Caporusso said. “But at the same time, we’re playing one really good team. North Dakota is the best team in the tournament, hands down. We’ve got our hands full.”

But while the Fighting Sioux boast a hefty offensive resume, Caporusso knows the NCAA Tournament is a one-and-done scenario, with the loser not getting an opportunity to play in Saturday’s national title game.

He and the Wolverines are just hoping to catch North Dakota on its off day.

“One day, one game, and anything can happen,” Caporusso said.

BEHIND THE BENCH: Former Bowling Green coach Francis “Buddy” Powers knew a future NHL player when he saw one.

Except that person didn’t sport a Falcons jersey — he wore the block ‘M,’ and his name was Bill Muckalt.

During the 1997-98 campaign, the Michigan hockey team played at Bowling Green on Nov. 21, winning 4-2. In the post-game press conference, according to Michigan coach Red Berenson, Powers was asked what was the difference in the game that night.

“Michigan’s got a player that’s an NHL player. That was the difference. He was that much better than anyone,” Powers said.

A former seventh round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Muckalt played on the Michigan hockey team from 1994-98. Prior to his senior season, Muckalt had the option of foregoing his final year in Ann Arbor and jumping ship to the professional ranks.

But Berenson had other plans.

“He could have left, but I was after him to stay,” Berenson said. “ ‘You make sure you stay. This is your time.’ And it was his time. He elevated his play, and he was a dominant player.”

Brendan Morrison, Jason Botterill, Blake Sloan and Mike Legg — all integral pieces to the 1996 NCAA title team along with Muckalt — had graduated the year before.

And according to Berenson, 1998 was the year Muckalt finally came out of Morrison’s shadows. Without the comfort of being on one of the most dominant lines during the Berenson era, Muckalt hoisted the team on his back from day one that fall.

After senior captain Matt Herr suffered a groin injury in the season-opening game against Minnesota, sidelining him for a few months, Muckalt was a different player.

“Billy Muckalt carried the team,” Berenson said. “It was unbelievable. He really came into his own.”

Thirteen years removed from leading the Wolverines to their ninth program championship, and the Surrey, British Columbia native just finished his first year coaching the New Mexico Mustangs, an inaugural team in the North American Hockey League.

But while the Mustangs finished dead last in the South Division with a 19-35-4 record, Muckalt felt the team could compete with anyone in the league near the end of the season.

“If we play our system and play for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the name on the back, we can have success,” Muckalt said.

Muckalt added that having the ability to coach a group of rookies and aid in their development as a hockey player along with a person is truly a rewarding experience — and that some day, impacting the lives of players within the confines of Yost Ice Arena would be a welcoming experience.

“Some day, if the opportunity came around, I’d love to come back and be part of that staff and be a part of Michigan,” Muckalt said.

NOTES: North Dakota won the WCHA regular-season title along with the conference tournament this season … The Fighting Sioux last won an NCAA Championship in 2000.

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